lester_and_jon_langford_1980Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

The Lagniappe Session with Ought can be downloaded, here

SIRIUS 395: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ The Soft Boys – Old Pervert (section 2) ++ Lower Dens – Tea Lights ++ Landline – Jungle Jenny ++ Vaselines – Slushy ++ Cleaners From Venus – Clara Bow ++ Ought – New Calm, Pt. 2 ++Viet Cong – Static Wall ++ Women – Black Rice ++ Ought – Money Changes Everything (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Ought – Sisters Are Forever (Aquarium Drunkard Session) ++ Deaf Wish – Mercy ++ England’s Glory – Shattered Illusions ++ Yo La Tengo – Automatic Doom ++ Whitney – No Matter Where We Go ++ The Art Museums – Oh, Modern Girls ++ Ultimate Painting – Talking Central Park Blues ++ Parquet Courts – Careers In Combat ++ The Mekons – Where Were You? ++ Hagerty-Toth Band – Spindizzy ++ Ham1 – Clown-Shoed Feet  ++ Mirage – Blood For The Return ++ Jana Hunter – A Bright-Ass Light ++ Vic Chesnutt – Degenerate  ++ Ryley Walker – Sweet Satisfaction ++ David Bowie – Win ++ Julian Lynch – Terra ++ Atlas Sound – Recent Bedroom ++ Daughn Gibson – Tiffany Lou ++ Deerhunter – Little Kids ++ Map of Africa – Bone ++ The Black Lips – The Drop I Hold ++ Steve Gunn & The Black Twig Pickers – Trailways Ramble ++ Thee Milkshakes – Gringles And Groyles

*Listen for free, online, with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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Summer, 2004—a hotel room after dark. Joanna Newsom weaves a plastic ribbon between the strings of her harp. She flicks a few chords that, muted as they are, sound like they’re coming from an 8-bit processor and not an instrument of the Baroque eighteenth century. She is slightly drunk, apparently in want of something to do for the camera. Beside the room’s furniture, the harp looks comically gargantuan.

Kevin Barker, the man holding the camera, hasn’t gotten much out of her so far. If she isn’t exactly shy, she hasn’t seemed interested in extroverting either, at least not beyond the muse-state that so animates her performances on stage. But here, whether by intuition or luck, Barker has gotten his timing right. From the other side of the room, a request—that new song, something “ultra cinematic.”

A jump cut, and it’s “Cosmia,” already sinuous and confident in wordless fragment. The folk-lyric trot that’s characterized Newsom’s work up to this point has drifted definitively away, enfolded in the vortex of something much richer: a canto, glimpsed here through the keyhole of a digital camera in bad lighting. Two years from now, a completed version of the song will anchor Ys, Newsom’s high modernist opus. Tonight, the bedside clock reads 3:42 AM. A moment of fleeting levitation. Somewhere in America.

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Joanna Newsom :: Cosmia

It’s this scene, and a few others like it, that The Family Jams was made for. Barker’s documentary is a snapshot of the mid-aughts ‘freak folk’ movement in its nascence. Newsom, touring nationally for the first time, accompanies friends and sonic fellow travelers Vetiver and Devendra Banhart, just as critical attention and collective Internet fanfare is translating into sold-out venues for them all across the country.

That snapshot can feel sentimental or quaint, or both, depending on your perspective. Originally premiered in 2009, and now given the deluxe treatment by Factory25 this spring, The Family Jams reemerges at a time when the sound it celebrates is largely out of fashion. By now, groups with broader aspirations have drawn from the same well of influences and smoothed over the eccentricities. For those interested in anthems and arenas, the modesty and sometimes-painful intimacy of these artists (both then and now) has less appeal. Devoted followings notwithstanding, the movement’s major players languish in a middle-distance of cultural memory, their legacy for the most part unexamined.

Eiichi_OhtakiOur weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can be heard twice every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 394: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ The B-G System – I Don’t Want To Be Your Man ++ Harvey Mandel – Wade In The Water Part I ++ Unknown Japanese Artist – Song Unknown ++ Toy Factory – Little Girl ++ The Rattlers – The Witch ++ Think – California (Is Getting So Heavy) ++ Spirit – The Other Song ++ Lightmyth – Across The Universe ++ Unknown Russian Artist – BPEMR ++ Wilding/Bonus – Son Of Alma ++ Emy Jackson and Blue Comets – You Don’t Know Baby ++ The Mardi Gras – If I Can’t Have You ++ Novac – Beyond The Look ++ Little Richard – Nuki Suki ++ Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and The Trinity – This Wheel’s On Fire ++ Delia Gartrell – See What You Done, Done ++ Funkadelic – I Wanna Know If It’s Good To You? ++ Shuggie Otis – Jenni Lee ++ Takuro Yoshida – A Night Of Our Trip ++ The Cryan’ Shames – Baltimore Oriole ++ The Fabulous Flippers – It Was A Very Good Year ++ Zephyr – Night Fades Softly ++ The Tigers – Seaside Bound ++ Ichiro Araki – Itoshi No Macks ++ The Dirty Shames – Coconut Grove ++ Old Well – Sanae-chan ++ The Kinks – Apeman ++ Midnight Sun – Where You Going To Be ++ Anita Kerr – Strange ++ The Free Design – Girls Alone ++ The Tempters – Kamisama Onegai ++ David Axelrod – Part I ++ Takuro Yoshida – I Live On ++ Little Wings – Eyes Without A Face

*Listen for free, online, with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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“Most of the guys in the band come from England and the rest of them come from South Africa – which is a wonderful place to come from…” Ronnie Scott chortles as way of introduction for Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath. The crowd knowingly laughs along while Scott enthusiastically introduces the band – a who’s who of South African and English jazz. The joy and excitement nearly eclipses the truly unfunny nature of the joke. 1971 was a very bad time to be in South Africa.

It had been a mere seven years since McGregor and his fellow members of The Blue Notes had left South Africa for exile, the fate of so many intellectuals and artists of the era. Moving to Europe not only invigorated their work, it quite simply allowed them to continue to play what they wanted to who they wanted.

Within a few years McGregor, along with Blue Notes members Dudu Pukwana and Louis Moholo (incredible solo and collaborative recorded artists in their own right) had formed the Brotherhood of Breath. A hodge podge of free jazz, big band and township music (that of segregated musicians in early Apartheid), the group added nearly a dozen English members to round out their version of a big band. McGregor, who was white, played the part of Duke Ellington while his trans-national and racially mixed band played to packed halls across Europe. Their success and collaboration, like that of so many other South Africans during those times, flew in defiance and in spite of the oppressive Apartheid regime back home.

Taking to the stage at the Berlin Jazzfest, the group seamlessly weaves its influences into large numbers. By turns Afro-pop, bebop and calypso, the group reaches towards the wildest extremes of free jazz only to coalesce in Gershwin-esque swings. On “Nick Tete,” (written by Pukwana) the group waltzes through the closest thing it creates to a standard jazz tune. The horns swirl and solo over one another, by turns “free” and perfectly composed. Moholo pounds out a tom heavy groove while Harry Miller (another white Afrikaner, who cut some chops with Manfred Mann) lays down a driving bass line, together forming the core from which the rest of the band can take any whims it wishes.

“Nick Tete” segues into “Restless” which is about as “free” as jazz was getting in the 70s. Its title sums up the sensation jazz purists get about free jazz, but the group utilizes the piece to show off its high-caliber. There isn’t a moment of the track that isn’t a solo of some kind – in particular, trumpeters Harry Beckett and Marc Charig pound and stab away, equally adept at improvisation and forming the foundation that allows the piece to hold together.

The mix of styles presented over the hour of performance can allow listeners to forget that these styles were direct responses to political environments. Township music was a reflection of forced segregation within South Africa, just as jazz was for African-Americans. Free jazz was a response to the constraints and expectations of composed jazz, both musically and culturally. Bebop was a response to the big band years (and its primarily white audience). Just playing music together – black-white, African-Afrikaner, European-African – was a response to a world that was still too easily distracted and disinterested in the brutal National Party regime of South Africa and its British colonial influence.

Eclipse At Dawn is the melding of personal and musical histories. Many of those in exile found welcoming and receptive audiences across Europe, both in the Western and Eastern Blocs. Those listeners had a great tolerance for the diverse sounds and styles presented to them. More importantly, they had a great tolerance for the diversity and value of the musicians themselves. But most importantly, they gave them a place to play, a place to be safe, and a place to be free, in all definitions. words / b kramer

Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath :: Nick Tete
Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath :: Restless

HTThe year is just about half spent, but I feel safe calling Houndstooth’s “Borderlands” the finest bittersweet breakup ballad of 2015. The gentle lilt of Katie Bernstein’s voice as she sings of a “burned out love,” the beautifully bent 12-string guitar break, the steady chug of the rhythm section — it all adds up to a kiss-off that’s also a goodbye kiss. Perfect.

The rest of the Portland, OR-based band’s No News From Home doesn’t disappoint either, offering plenty of pleasing Velvety strum ‘n’ jangle, charming girl-guy vocals and effortlessly catchy songwriting. Fans of the Flying Nun label’s classic kiwipop sound will find plenty to love. No News is very good news, indeed. words / t wilcox

Houndstooth :: Borderlands

Red-Rhodes-Elektra-LPPedal steel ace Orville “Red” Rhodes (1930-1995) was one of LA’s most in-demand session players during the late 1960s and early 1970s, lending his laid-back licks to hits by James Taylor, Linda Rondstadt, and The Carpenters. But Red was more than just a sideman. He was a band leader, fronting the house band at North Hollywood’s legendary Palomino Club between 1966 and 1969. He was an inventor, building custom amps and “Velvet Hammer” pickups out of his Royal Repair Shop on the corner of Cahuenga and Hollywood. And he was a good time: according to his most frequent musical collaborator, former Monkee Michael Nesmith, Red “smoked more dope than any man I knew.”

The 21 songs on this mix showcase Red Rhodes’ virtuosity and versatility, highlighting the role his unmistakeable tone played in defining the LA country rock sound. words / m dawson

All Roads Lead To Red: A Pedal Steel Mixtape / Tribute

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It’s been five long years since Meg Baird’s last solo album, but the singer-songwriter (formerly of the late/great Espers) is back with Don’t Weigh Down the Light, a deeply satisfying effort that feels like an instant psych-folk classic. Baird relocated to San Francisco from Philadelphia recently and you might hear a little bit of Golden State sunshine in the grooves here, as subtle piano and electric 12-string textures fill out the picture. It’s still Meg’s high, lonesome voice and gorgeous fingerpicking that take center stage, however — and rightly so.

While there’s almost no one else out there who can deliver a sad song quite as well as she can, Don’t Weigh Down the Light is also filled with hopefulness and beauty. You could easily compare Baird to some of the great folk singers of the past 50 years, but more than anything else here, she just sounds like herself. And that’s a great thing. words / t wilcox

Meg Baird :: Counterfeiters

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With a career that stretches back to her 1979 self-titled debut, Rickie Lee Jones has been creating music that transcends the every day while wholly embracing every ounce of its being. Her emergence from the same scene that birthed Tom Waits, Chuck E. Weiss and others helped make her an instant success, but her albums have consistently been an evolving work, going from her early master-work Pirates up through the Walter Becker produced Flying Cowboys and the majestic The Evening of My Best Day. The Other Side of Desire is her 12th studio album of original material and is out this week. AD caught up with Rickie via phone to discuss the new album, her move back to New Orleans, the benefit and drawbacks of ego and how it’s nice to feel like you’ve given something to the world.

Aquarium Drunkard: It’s been about six years since you last put out an album of original material [2009’s Balm in Gilead] and that’s one of the longest stretches of your entire career. But a few years ago you did a covers album [2012’s The Devil You Know]. You’ve talked in the promotional material for this album about waiting until you had the songs together you wanted to record. Was doing the covers album a way of sparking that creative process in some way?

Rickie Lee Jones: I don’t think so. I think, to be honest, it was just to make some money. [laughs] It was just to keep myself working. You know, I was getting into a place where I wasn’t working at all and was just touring. I had run out of money and had to just tour and tour. So to get myself into the studio – I had two songs that I knew I wanted to do. I wanted to do “The Weight.” I was waking up every day singing “The Weight” and singing “It Never Entered My Mind” by Frank Sinatra. And then I added on this Rolling Stones song [“Sympathy for the Devil”].

And people said, ‘you know, you do these 60s soul songs so well. You should do a record of those songs.’ I didn’t do a 60s soul record. But that’s kind of how I went in the direction of the 60s generally speaking. But then I didn’t have a group of songs from the 60s that moved me. So we ended up picking things like “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and things that had been suggested. I don’t know if I should share this, but I struggled with that record. So I suppose, in a way, it told me the way to go. It was like: ‘You have to leave here now. There’s nothing left in L.A. for you. If you want to be a writer, you have to go somewhere else.’ So I’m really glad I moved. It really helped.

You know, I know people don’t like to hear ‘I did it for the money,’ But money has really told us what direction to go. When people are poor, they often do some of their best work. They want to make some money, right?

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Our weekly two hour show on SIRIUS/XMU, channel 35, can now be heard twice, every Friday – Noon EST with an encore broadcast at Midnight EST.

SIRIUS 393: Jean Michel Bernard – Générique Stephane ++ The Mekons – Where Were You?++ Landline – Wire ++ Carnivores – Pillow Talk ++ Deerhunter – Dot Gain ++ Tess Parks And Anton Newcombe – Friendlies ++ The Vaselines – No Hope ++ Lower Dens – A Dog’s Dick ++ Ought – Sisters Are Forever ++  Viet Cong – Static Wall ++ Kindness – Gee Up ++ Shintaro Sakamoto – Dancing With Pain ++ The Clash – 1977 ++ The Soft Boys – I Got The Hots ++ The Cure – Screw ++ The Fall – Spoilt Victorian Child ++ Orange Juice – Falling And Laughing (BBC Peel Session) ++ The Smiths – What Difference Does It Make (Hatful of Hollow version) ++ Girls Names – I Lose ++ The B-52s – Dance This Mess Around ++ Blur – Sing ++ David Bowie – Fascination ++ Gary Numan – Metal ++ Pylon – Cool ++ R.E.M. – Wolves Lower ++ R.E.M. – Stumble ++ R.E.M. – Carnival of Sorts ++ Bob Mould – Sunspots ++ Bob Mould – Heartbreak A Stranger ++ Bob Mould – Sinners And Their Repentances ++ Whitney – No Matter Where We Go ++ The Art Museums – Oh, Modern Girls ++ Ultimate Painting – Central Park Blues ++ Pavement – Baptist Blacktick ++ Parquet Courts – Instant Disassembly ++ Iggy Pop – New Values

*Listen for free, online, with the SIRIUS three day trial — just submit an email address and they will send you a password.
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